THE Serpent's Tahar Rahim has admitted he has wanted to play the 'sadistic & evil' serial killer in the new BBC drama since he was a teen.
The 39-year-old French actor plays real life serial killer Charles Sobhraj, with the new series depicting his reign of terror as he killed countless travellers in Thailand, Nepal and India during the 1970s, drugging them and often stealing their identities.
Speaking about why he wanted to play such an evil person on screen, Tahar said: "When I was sixteen my brother was reading a book – this big thick book by his bed, and he was so into it. It was ‘The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj’… so I read it too, and I became fascinated by it.
"I think as human beings we’re fascinated by – in this case – killers, but also by evil in general. It’s fascination and repulsion.
"I was a young guy who wanted to be an actor and after reading this book I thought 'I’d like to play this guy'. There’s so much mystery.
"Fast forward to a few years ago, when I had an email from my agent saying Tom Shankland and Richard Warlow wanted to meet with me about playing a murderer called… Charles Sobhraj."
Tahar went to the meeting with the show's executive producers and told them about reading the book on Charles when he was younger.
Tahar revealed: "When I talked with Tom more recently he said that day he didn’t know if I was lying or not, but that he said to himself 'this guy is our Charles – because we never know whether he’s lying or not, but we believe him.' But I was not lying!"
The Serpent also stars former Doctor Who actress Jenna Coleman as Marie-Andrée Leclerc, Charles' lover and accomplice.
Charles was eventually caught and jailed for his crimes, as was Marie-Andrée, and Tahar admits the killer was a hard person to capture the essence of.
He explained: "I needed to understand in a way what makes a murderer… I wanted to start from there.
"I read a lot of books on the subject, plus I spoke with some experts. I did my homework.
"When you’re playing someone who’s alive and not especially famous, the key thing to do is to catch the soul.
"From there you can create everything else… but it’s the soul, that’s a hard thing to catch. Especially with Charles… it’s not easy."
The Serpent begins at 9pm on New Year's Day on BBC One.
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